The Telecommunications Engineer’s Toolkit

With a title like the one above, this post could go in several different directions. For the purposes of this entry I am talking about a physical toolkit i.e. all of those handy telecommunications tools that make the nuances of any voice install; analog, digital or yes even IP more productive.

“But Justin,” you may say “I use the web to log into CUCM and I ssh into my voice gateways, I have a laptop and a console cable, what other tools do I need?”

I’ve softened to the question above in recent years. Rather than just reaching through my screen and slapping the crap out of the reader, I simply shake my head in disappointment…Really?

I get that with the ever increasing prevalence of ITSPs and advancements in faxing and other legacy voice related appendages that there may in fact be an entire crop of telecommunications engineers that think that a laptop and console cable are really the only tools that they need, but I respectfully beg to differ. Can your laptop help you get to the bottom of the now infamous “Ethernet Disconnected” message on a Cisco phone? Can it help you put an RJ11 end on a piece of silver satin if you need a backup POTS line into your voice gateway? Can it help you tone out mysterious devices/circuits/gremlins when migrating from a legacy system to an IP solution? If you answered yes to any of these questions, I think I want to buy your laptop, if you answered no, you need tools.

My toolkit is more basic than some and far more advanced than others, here is a list of what it currently includes…

  1. Multi-bit ratcheting driver (I carry a power driver as well, but batteries are often fickle).
  2. Punch down tool with both 66 and 110 block blades.
  3. Crimping tool for putting on RJ11 and RJ45/48 ends (mine also does coax, but that doesn’t usually come into play).
  4. Outer sheath cutter for CAT5E/6 cable.
  5. Lineman’s scissors
  6. RJ45 and RJ11 male ends
  7. Telecom Butt-Set w/ Banjo
  8. Toner
  9. RJ45 and RJ11 cable tester (mine includes remote plugs for port identification which have proven to be really handy).
  10. T1 Loopback plug
  11. Bulk Cat6 cable (just enough to make a few patch cables, no need to lug a box of cable everywhere you go).
  12. Label Maker

I keep a few other miscellaneous things in my bag but the above items go where I go.  I may not use all of my tools on every job, but more times than not I’ve went to a job thinking I wouldn’t need them and I’ve ended up using them. If your employer provides these tools for you, that is great, I have my own because as I said before…they go where I go.

What do you carry in your toolkit? Have something that you love that you think I should add? Want more information? Leave your feedback below!





Cisco Prime Collaboration Provisioning – Canceling Failed Orders & Wait State Orders

Cisco’s Prime Collaboration Provisioning (formerly Cisco Unified Provisioning Manager) tends to invoke one of two distinct responses from Collaboration folks; seething hate or mild disdain. While I have several historical reasons to be a part of one or both of these camps, I actually like PCP and when it is installed correctly and used for what it was designed to be used for, I find it to be an effective and handy application.

With all of that said, if you’ve used PCP for than a minute, you know that it can be fickle when it comes to pushing through bulk orders and completing tasks. You’ve probably had a bulk order that just sat there and sat there and never completed. Maybe you looked in the job log, I hope you did, but if you didn’t you should next time. If your order has permanently seized, you’ll see a “wait” statement. If you see this “wait” statement, your job will not complete. Basically the wait statement means that PCP encountered a problem that it does not have a definition for. If it had a definition, the job would end with an error and all would be good (albeit still with an error, but complete). For example, if you have an LDAP synchronized CUCM but for whatever reason the user ID that PCP has and the user ID that CUCM has are different PCP will try to create a user in CUCM and CUCM will tell it “no”. No, should be an error, but not to PCP in this case. On a side note if you look at a successful job in progress you’ll see a “sleep” statement. Sleep means that the prerequisites are complete and PCP is just waiting for all of the requested changes to be completed in the downstream system before it completes its job. In PCP terms “wait” is bad “sleep” is good.

When you run into one of these “permanently seized” errors, you can reboot the box and hope that whatever gremlins caused the order to fail are dead and gone, but shouldn’t there be a better way? There is.

**There is a timeout value on the wait statements, so if you want to wait for the order the fail naturally you can, but during a deployment, time is almost never your friend.**

I found this little bit of joy on a Cisco forum a couple of years ago and I think it is a good tool to keep in your back pocket when working with PCP. This command does require root access, but you create a password for the root user when you install/setup PCP so that isn’t a problem.

/opt/cupm/sep/ipt/bin/ globaladmin <password> <order_number> -forced

The command above cancels all parts of a fouled/never ending order. To run this command you must SSH to the PCP box using root credentials. You must also have access to the globaladmin credentials, but hopefully that won’t be a problem.

Once you cancel the order in question, you can go back and fix whatever the problem may have been and reattempt the job.

I hope this long winded bit of information helps someone out there. If you have questions or comments, leave them below.